The Google+ Brand Challenge

Google+’s Great Expectations: Google has had such a tough time of it at social that it’s now shouldering an unexpected burden: tremendous expectations for its fledgling social networking product. The techie types just love Google+. There’s little doubt after trying it for a few days that Google+ is an impressive product, far better than its ham-handed social efforts like Google Wave. At TechCrunch, MG Sigler declares “war” between Google and Facebook, noting Google+ is on its way to being a credible traffic referrer. The question is whether normal people will feel the same once it opens widely. Facebook has a lock on 750 million users. The barriers to switching social providers are mostly that it’s a pain to rebuild a social graph in another place when all your friends are already connected on Facebook. MySpace isn’t a good example. It was a “cool” place, while Facebook is determined to be useful. The most likely outcome is that Google+ spurs Facebook to innovate on some fronts on which it has lagged. TechCrunch

The Google+ Brand Challenge: For a more sober view of Google+’s prospects, First Round Capital’s Charlie O’Donnell lays out the many challenges it faces. For O’Donnell, it’s a question of branding. People don’t go to their search engine (Google) to connect with their friends. It would be like Facebook rolling out a spreadsheets product. This pretty much nails it. Brand is a notion that product-obsessed Silicon Valley doesn’t always get. The engineer-driven ethos there is that the best product wins, period. But that’s not always the case at all. The best product doesn’t always win. Witness Apple’s long losing streak to Microsoft before its most recent resurgence. Business Insider

The iAd Stumble: It’s no secret that Apple hasn’t exactly set the advertising world on fire with iAd, despite the hype surrounding its launch. This was certainly a case of unrealistic expectations. It didn’t go without notice that Steve Jobs didn’t even mention iAd during his recent performance at the Worldwide Developers Conference. That’s a sign you’re not on Steve’s good side. It could be worse for the iAd team: they could be working on MobileMe. Bloomberg gets wind that Apple is slashing the prices on iAd to lure back some advertisers put off by what’s frankly a pretty ho-hum product. The larger question is whether Apple’s going to sacrifice all its restrictions around iAd to make it part of the larger digital ad system. That means third-party tracking, for instance. Until then, iAd will remain a high-end niche product. And that’s historically where Apple has put its products in the first place. But the key then is to make a product that’s far better than the cheaper competition. Apple’s not there yet. Bloomberg

Tweet of the Day: Yieldbot founder Jonathan Mendez is bucking the trend of expressing dismay at the ad industry’s obsession with clicks. He’s not a believer that clicks are bad for branding.

Creativity vs. Scale: Buzzfeed president Jon Steinberg takes up the cause of branding in digital media. This is a particular challenge, particularly when the focus of the industry has been squarely focused on secondary sales channels via ad exchanges, demand-side platforms and the like. Steinberg thinks this misses the mark — 80 percent of a publisher’s business is still direct, after all — and the market is bifurcating. On the one hand you’ll have the automated ad world that will cater to direct response. On the other will be custom, social and creative advertising that caters to brands. There’s little doubt that this end of the industry gets too little attention. The problem is how such a creative, custom ad world scales at a time when marketers are struggling to keep up with the Web’s extreme fragmentation.

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